Episode 35, 31, 30 – Mark’s pics
Episode 2, 7, 8 – Marc’s pics
Welcome to the Custom Apparel Startups podcast, your best source for information, news, tips and tricks to get you off the ground running, and earn success with your custom apparel decorating business. So, get ready to soak up some knowledge!
Now, here are your hosts, Mark and Marc!
Mark S: Hey, everyone! Welcome to episode 51 of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast. My name is Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.
Marc V: And this is Marc Vila, from Colman and Company. Today we’re here to talk about the most important episode.
Mark S: Right. I don’t want you to get the impression that we couldn’t think of any other topic, so we just decided to go rehash previous topics. We really did look at this volume of stuff that we’ve talked about so far, and it’s about 50 hours’ worth of material, and tried to pick out if you were only going to listen to one to six episodes, which ones would they be?
Marc V: All the best series and sitcoms and duos have mashup episodes. You know, Family Ties mashup, Roseanne, they all go back and do little mini-mashups. That’s how you know when you’ve gotten to a good place.
Mark S: Where did you get Family Ties and Roseanne?
Marc V: Well, when you grew up, it was like Leave It To Beaver.
Mark S: Stop it! Stop it! Okay, so top episodes. In preparation for this, we kind of went back through the list of 50 episodes, and picked out the ones that we thought would be most useful for you. If you haven’t listened to all of them, I would love for you to make a list as we talk, because these are the important ones. And if you have listened to all of them, then these are the ones that you should probably go back to.
Marc V: Yeah. A little bit of going back and listening to them, and also going back and rehashing, re-practicing, revamping, reviewing these topics, and how you’re actually doing them in your business. It’s a good time to kind of self-reflect back on some of these topics, and say “I said I was going to do this. Am I?” Or “I said I was going to get to that one day. Should I get to it now?”
Mark S: Or “I did it, but I stopped,” or “I did it, and I found out I suck at it, and I haven’t changed that behavior.”
Marc V: Or “Wow! I actually did do that, and I can think of a couple customers or more that I’ve earned, because I did that. I should do it more often,” or something like that.
Mark S: Do it more! I like that a lot. So, tell us, Marc, what is on Marc Vila’s list?
Marc V: One of my favorites – I went all the way back to the beginning, when we decided to do this, because I said the Mark and Marc of years past, when they started the CAS podcast -.
Mark S: This is shortly after Marc Vila said “Hey, let’s do a podcast!” And Mark Stephenson said “What’s a podcast?” It’s about then.
Marc V: Yes. It was a little bit after that. It was just after that. We had to say “What are things that our customers and potential customers should know and hear, that will help them make more money?” I trust us from years ago, and I said I want to go all the way back and pick early ones, because these are things we thought that were important early on.
So, the first one I picked was episode 2, which was kind of the first real episode, because the first episode was just an intro. And it’s email marketing. The reason is quite simple. It is quite easy to do, if you have a list of customers. You don’t have to have a bunch of automations and all this automatic stuff happening, and all this fancy design, like when you get an email from a sporting goods store or Bass Pro Shops.
Mark S: Best Buy.
Marc V: Bed Bath and Beyond. It doesn’t have to look like that. It can just be some text. It could actually just be you individually emailing all of your most important customers, or people who made you money.
Mark S: Not cc’ing a whole list of them, but one at a time.
Marc V: Yeah, or it can be that you’ve got Constant Contact or MailChimp, or one of these services that allows you to do a little bit of proper mass emailing, if you do have too many emails to manage. But most of the services like this are, if not completely free when you’re a really small business, almost.
Mark S: It’s close to it.
Marc V: A two-digit number a month. You know, $20 a month or less. So, it’s very inexpensive. You can also do it completely for free, by just emailing people. Showing up in somebody’s email inbox once a month, twice a month, three times a month, depending on your business and who you’re emailing, can make a nice difference.
People will forget about you. I’m sorry.
Mark S: People forget about us. They forget about Colman and Company and ColDesi. Someone will express interest in our products, and if we aren’t emailing them constantly, then three months later or three weeks later, someone will call and say “Who are you guys?”
Marc V: “I didn’t know that you sold heat presses.” “You bought a heat press from us!”
Mark S: Right.
Marc V: And the same thing will happen with you, and all different types of things will happen. You will do a nice size job for maybe a medium-sized business, and they will love the work. Then, the next day, the person who ordered them retires. Then, a new person’s in charge. It’s a full year before they order again.
Mark S: They have no idea who you are.
Marc V: Yeah. They are just going to go to Google and search “local embroidery business.” However, if you would have emailed maybe 12 times over the course of that year, once a month, you probably would have landed in that person’s inbox. It probably would have said something like “Hey, I did an embroidery job for you six months ago!”
Mark S: We’re all about the pet peeves here, as well, and I remember that – I don’t get them as much anymore, so maybe people did listen to this episode – is when we send out our emails, we get these autoresponders back that well-meaning people set up, that basically result in “Please don’t buy from us.” It’s a responder with a list of rules on how to do business with us. It’s just not a positive experience.
So, there’s some good stuff to take away from episode 2, and I think you should listen to it again.
Marc V: Listen to it again, and do something about your email marketing. I recommend doing something slightly automated, through like Constant Contact or MailChimp if you can, but at minimum, have a good database of your customers’ names and email addresses somewhere. And make it a point that at least once a month, do some sort of reach-out to them, even if it’s just a reminder that says “Hey, I’m here if you need any help or if you want to talk about custom t-shirts, or if you have any ideas you want to brainstorm.” Even if it’s as simple as that.
Mark S: So, your assignment is to listen to episode 2, and then do something about it.
Marc V: Good. I like it. Your turn.
Mark S: I’ve got one. This is what Marc and I, episodes that we like and that we think are important. The popular episodes are usually determined by how good we are at writing the title. Right? That’s why you do it. So, one of the episodes I think a lot of people missed, just because of the title, was Accessing The Hispanic Market. That’s episode 35.
That was our first episode with our new Marketing Assistant, Maria.
Marc V: God rest her soul. No! I’m just kidding. She’s alive!
Mark S: Yeah, she’s alive, and she still works for us.
Marc V: She’s wonderful, if she’s listening.
Mark S: Accessing The Hispanic Market, because it’s a representation of a niche market. What we did was we used the Hispanic market as an example. It’s a large percentage of the population, that prefers to speak Spanish, even if they speak another language. So, addressing them in Spanish and choosing that as a market.
For example, the idea was let’s say that you are a Spanish speaker, or you come from a Spanish background. You might go to the Puerto Rican Day parade. You might go to a Cuban-American get-together. You might concentrate your shirts with Spanish phrases. You might do something to address that niche market, that you have an affinity to.
We also brainstormed during that one, what other kinds of niche markets might you have an affinity to. You might be Catholic or Baptist or Jewish, or you may have an affinity for your church group. That particular part of religion in general might be your niche, so you concentrate on things very specific to that.
I think an Armenian Catholic t-shirt store might do well, if you have a big Armenian Catholic Orthodox community in your area.
Marc V: And if you recall, my father, my livelihood growing up was based on an extremely niche market type of a business. He dealt with small Hispanic local grocery stores. That was his niche market, because they exist, and they needed somebody to talk to them, and he did for decades.
Finding these little niche things, I think, is the key to just getting a nice solid little rapid growth. You find a place to get into, you make some marketing materials for it, you make specific samples for it. You go to specific events and shows. I think that that concept of the Hispanic market thing, how you mentioned how it expands out to the others, takes in so many different pieces of so many other episodes where we talk about how “What should you do?”
Make the sample and go to the place. Bring them a sample and a business card, and things like that. Well, what if you decided that your niche market was going to be Hispanic grocery stores, if there’s enough in your area? Then, you actually make something that actually shows that and says it. You bring it to them and you talk to them.
Mark S: This applies to almost the more niche, the better. If you are part of the Filipino community, word of mouth is an amazing thing. If you’re part of a Vietnamese community, if you’re part of a separate language group, or if you just really like it a lot.
If you really love Chinese stuff, then go to the restaurant that they’re having a Chinese New Year festival, and make some shirts. Hire somebody to do a phrase in Mandarin, and print that. Just participate in these things as much as possible.
It’s identifying a niche market based on language or ethnicity, or a specific hobby, and developing a little marketing plan around it, and how you can appeal to those people, or “my people,” depending on your perspective on it. Go and hit that market.
Don’t just think of cheer and dance and horses and plumbers, as a niche. Ethnicity, religion, country of origin, country of affinity, can all be great niche markets.
Marc V: I think first, it should be preferably make it something that you love, because then it’s just kind of fun anyway. So, if you’re into Mustang car racing or bass fishing or whatever it is, then that is cool, just because you’re going to want to go to that event anyway. Now it becomes all these cool things.
It becomes a business write-off to go to an event. It becomes “I get to make money and have fun simultaneously.” So, that’s first. However, even if you’re not into whatever it might be at all, we have customers that sell rhinestone apparel, that have said to me “I don’t know anything about rhinestones or cheerleading, or anything like that. I just know about business, and I saw that there was a need for this in my area, so I did it.”
It’s not his favorite thing to do, but he saw a little niche market. So, if you see a lot of something in your area that maybe you’re not huge into, but you think you can kind of get into the community and niche out for that, then get in there and start to do it.
Mark S: Agreed.
Marc V: I think the Hispanic one is a perfect example for that.
Mark S: Great! Episode 35, listen to it, and do something about it. You’re up.
Marc V: Let’s see. What do I have? I had episode 7, because I kind of said that I wanted to be in the beginning for these. I looked all around, but that was Sales – Simple Tips For Small Business and Startups.
Mark S: I like that.
Marc V: This is just the one that I think is just do it. You’ve got to do it. You have to listen to it. You have to think about it. So many of our customers don’t sell.
Mark S: Yeah.
Marc V: They get a lot of referral business. They might put a little ad here or there. They talk to people, or whatever they do, and they’re successful. They do well. But they don’t actually go out and sell. I have a few customers that are actually pretty successful, that we talk to, and they say “No, I don’t go out and sell.”
I was like “Why don’t you bring some samples out?” “No, I don’t really do that. What I do is when somebody sees me wearing a shirt, I give them my card.” The thing is that you can be successful that way, and you can make pretty good money that way.
But if you want to next level, if you’re looking to figure out how to get past a plateau, or you want to make another investment in your business, you want to get into a new technology because you find it really interesting, like you’ve been looking at embroidery for two years and you haven’t pulled the trigger yet, because you’re not quite there to afford it, get out there and start selling.
Listen to that episode. We’ll give you some basic fundamentals. You do not need to be a vacuum sales type of person.
Mark S: Do they even have those anymore?
Marc V: I don’t know, but I imagine a vacuum type of sales person for, say embroidery or t-shirt printing, would walk into somebody’s store and look at their shirt and say “Look at this embroidery! It’s garbage!” And then grab it and rip the shirt.
If it was my shirt, that wouldn’t [inaudible 15:40].
Mark S: You have a very vivid imagination. I like that.
Marc V: I think you’ve got to get fundamentally back to that.
Mark S: What I liked about that episode is it was very general. The thing that you said about we have customers that are successful, that all they have to do is wear their clothes and know people. But we also have a whole set of people that buy machines and stare at the phone all day, and wonder why they’re not selling anything.
A lot of our episodes that followed this one are about the answer to that question. “Why am I not selling? How can I sell more?” This one is a great foundation episode. I agree. I’m sorry I didn’t pick this one, too, because it’s a good one.
Marc V: It’s okay. I forgive you.
Mark S: Thank you.
Marc V: Go ahead, though. We don’t have to say too much more about that episode, besides you’ve got to do it.
Mark S: Yeah. Listen to it, take notes, do it. I really love the Make More Money Next Month trilogy that we did. So, I’m going to do one of those, and that is Small Business Phone Skills.
Marc V: Oh, okay! Yeah.
Mark S: What I like about that is I actually had the opportunity to visit some folks recently, in another business. I’m at this small business’s office, consulting with the owner. A small business, like the owner and his wife, and one other person. And they answered the phone about three times in a row. The business had been around for probably 30 years. They did a terrible job on the phone.
They answered the phone “Hello?” And that’s it. Every single person, you knew they said “Is this whatever?” “Yeah, it sure is. How can I help you?” So, those basic skills, I think, small business phone skills help you tailor a first impression, matching the personality of your business, which we used to talk about a lot.
How do you answer the phone? How do you take an order on the phone? What do you say at the end? Are you answering the phone professionally and properly? Are you closing the call out with a call to action? Are you asking them to do something, or look at something, or buy something else, at the end of every call? What’s the follow-up step, when you’re done? Are you getting all the information that you need? If you decide to make outbound calls, what does that look like?
This is free for you guys. Phone skills are free, because you’re going to pay for that phone, whether or not you use it. Pretty much gone are the days where you’re paying by the minute. So, you have a free opportunity, especially if the phone rings coming in, to make money.
You’ve got to look at that like, the phone rings, it’s not interrupting my work. This is my work. This is the future of my business, every time you pick up the phone. You should listen to this episode on small business phone skills, and get great at it. I think there’s some stuff in there that will help you do that.
Marc V: There’s so much, that it’s just the little things on the phone that make all the huge difference. When I go through and think about everything that you mentioned about that episode, just be friendly on the phone, not making it seem like it’s a hassle when somebody calls you up, not being brash and short and rude, because you’re like “I hate when somebody asks this question.”
Let me tell you something. It’s the first time they asked it. I’m sorry that it’s the hundredth time you’ve been asked it. Believe me, I can put anything in the world in every format; audio, visual, video, picture, downloadable pdf and written text, on the website, about patches and what are the difference between twill material and regular patch material.
Mark S: Somebody’s going to call with that question.
Marc V: Every single day, five times a day, somebody asks what the difference is. Part of me, inside, is like “I don’t know. Look at the 19 things that are on that page you’re looking at right now.” But that’s also the part of me that just says “Really, all they wanted to do was talk about it.” That’s it. They just wanted to call, because they were just curious. They wanted to get some human feedback on it. They wanted to just get a feel.
Mark S: That is a great way to look at it. Usually, I transfer those to somebody else. “You know what? I know an expert on that. Hang on.”
Marc V: So, I think that when somebody calls you up and they ask you that one question about t-shirts that you’ve heard a hundred times, or somebody calls you up and just says “How much is a t-shirt?”, even though you know it’s not how they should ask it, or how you wish they wouldn’t ask it, remember, it’s their first time calling you.
If you are nice and friendly, and you sound excited to talk to them, they’re going to want to call you back.
Mark S: Yes. Because I know what you’re going to do. “How much is a custom t-shirt?” “How many do you want? What size is the image? What color shirt do you want it on, and when do you need it by?” I can hear that conversation happen. “Oh, cool! Tell me about why you want the shirts!” “Oh, it’s a family reunion. We’ve got 12 people.”
“That’s awesome! Do you want a big image? Do you already have the picture?” Be excited about it. Actually, forget all that. Listen to the episode!
Marc V: Listen to the episode. Also, realize that sometimes people that call you are going to be jerks. But it’s not your job to be a jerk back. It’s your job to be nice back. Let them be in a bad mood.
Mark S: It never happens to us! So, that is episode 30, Making More Money Next Month – Small Business Phone Skills. You do one.
Marc V: Should I talk about my last choice?
Mark S: Your last choice? I’ve got 48 more! No, go ahead.
Marc V: Okay. Our probably most popular episode, when we look at the number of downloads and listens and such, is Biggest Mistakes Starting an Embroidery Business. That is a title write. We had to write “mistakes for an embroidery business.”
Mark S: Because you’ll open that one.
Marc V: But it’s really any apparel business. It’s almost any business, but specifically, of course, apparel. It has a lot to do with all the mistakes that people make, that we hear about every day. The same mistakes people are making over and over again, and will make today.
I will have an email with one of these mistakes, by the time we’re done with this episode. What do you think about that?
Mark S: I like that a lot, but I’m waiting for you to give me an example of one of those mistakes, because they’re going to want to listen to it.
Marc V: I don’t remember specifically if we said this one at all, but I’m going to give you an example that was very close to something. Somebody is investing in a t-shirt business kit the other day, so they’re buying a cutter and a whole bunch of vinyl, and a whole bunch of different tools and materials. They’re buying top of the line vinyl and top of the line cutter, a brand new cutter.
They’ve spent all of this stuff, and they said “I’m not going to buy the heat press.” We said “Okay, well, you need to heat apply these, you know. Do you want one?” They said “No, I found one on Amazon that I can get.” It was like $200 cheaper. We look at it, and it’s just very much so one of those generic remakes, like a Chinese remake.
Mark S: It’s crappy. You can say it.
Marc V: It’s a crappy press. We’ve tested a lot of heat presses. I promise you that one was crappy. I didn’t say it – I was on the phone, but I had said to the person who was on the phone with them – I was like “You’re buying the best cutter in the world, debatably, you can buy. You’re buying the Coke or the Pepsi of the cutter, and then you’re turning around and you’re buying -.”
Mark S: RC Cola?
Marc V: I was going to say Sam’s Choice, but lower than that. You’re investing so much, and in order to save, of the percent of the sale, like 3% or 4% of the total amount that they were investing, in probably the most important part.
Mark S: Point of failure.
Marc V: Because everyone who has done heat applied graphics knows that sometimes it doesn’t stick. Sometimes it peels off. That’s what I find is an essential mistake, is not looking at the long-term things when you’re making decisions, and thinking about right now, not about six months or six years from now.
Mark S: My biggest one that I remember from that episode is it’s one of the first times that we talked about the fact that people will come in for training, and they’ll have bought a direct-to-garment printer for $25,000 or $30,000, or they’ll have bought an embroidery machine or two, for $12,000, or whatever they’re getting. We will casually ask the question, “That’s great! Congratulations! Tell me about your business. What’s your niche market? Who are you going to sell to?” And they haven’t thought about it at all.
You’ll spend months torturing yourself on which embroidery machine to buy, and not think for an hour about “Okay, after I get my machine and all set up, where am I going to get my customers?” So, it’s not thinking about marketing at all, that’s one of the biggest mistakes.
But there’s a lot of good stuff in that episode. I appreciate that.
Marc V: That actually reminds me of one other example, which I’m pretty sure was in the episode, if we didn’t mention it ten times already, in the whole 50 episodes. It’s about folks who get into the business, and they are so excited, they do start selling, way too prematurely. Now, they haven’t even gotten trained on their machine, and they are trying to out of order, piece together their training and how to use it, so they can fulfill a 200-shirt order that they’ve promised to somebody while their machine is on a truck still.
Mark S: I read those Facebook posts over the weekend. It’s like “Oh, my god! I’ve got an order to get out this weekend, and I’m having this problem.” My response is “Have you been through training yet?” “Uh, no.”
Marc V: Or “My machine is supposed to be delivered here by a freight truck, on a pallet, by Tuesday. And I told somebody by Thursday or Friday, I can get them done 200 hats.” You haven’t even opened up the box!
Mark S: Just relax a little bit. I know you’re excited, but relax.
Marc V: Yeah. I know you’re excited and you want to make that money, but at the same time, you are setting yourself up for failure. I think that’s something that happens a lot.
Mark S: Now, we don’t have to go into – I’ve got like two kind of wild cards I’m not going to say a lot about. First of all, you have to listen to the whole series on making more money next month. The other one of my favorites is Active Word of Mouth.
Marc V: Oh, yeah.
Mark S: You’ve got to look at that one, and do it. I had a phone conversation with a customer about the difference between her online business and local business. And most people, most of you listening, make 90% or 100% of your money from customers in your area, that you’ve met personally, in one way or another.
So, listen to that active word of mouth episode, and definitely do it.
Marc V: My extra one was episode 27, which was You Versus the Competition, which is I think our number two listened to episode. It’s got so many fundamentals on how do you handle all of that stuff about competition, when it comes to promises and pricing and timing and options, and all the other things.
Mark S: You know what I’m really happy about? This was tough, to figure out what we think the top three each.
Marc V: That’s why I went back, and I said “I’m just going to trust us from a year or so ago.” I was like “I really want to pick three that are in that top ten,” because we thought that these were the first ten things to talk about. I looked at episode 27 and 35, that you had mentioned, and although I really like those, I said “This was my 20th idea, not my second.”
Mark S: Good point. I like that.
Marc V: That’s how I justified making the decision quicker.
Mark S: Okay. I picked them because I really liked them! Alright, what did we end up with? We ended up with listen to episode 35, Accessing the Hispanic Market, about niche marketing. We ended up with Making More Money Next Month, which is episode 30, on phone skills. We did episode 29, Active Word of Mouth, real quick. That was my last one.
And one more I want you to listen to is Getting Found Online, which you should do.
Marc V: Oh, yeah! Now, I’ve got to bring up my notes again. We had episode 2, on Email Marketing. Just do something about that.
Mark S: Episode 7, Small Business Tips, that’s a good general one. I really like that.
Marc V: And I had my wild card, episode 27 there. And then, episode 8, Biggest Mistakes in Starting an Embroidery Business, which I think is a cool one.
Mark S: Yeah, true. Everybody has listened to that one anyway, apparently. And episode 27 was You Versus the Competition. I really like this. I think we’ve done a lot of decent content. We’ve gotten feedback on a bunch of these episodes from you guys, which I really appreciate.
If you are just listening to the podcast and you are not a member of the Facebook group, I don’t understand how that’s happening. Definitely, you should be part of the Custom Apparel Startups Facebook group.
Marc V: It’s because they’re not on Facebook. And then, I think we probably have multiple podcasts where we talk about -.
Mark S: That’s a mistake.
Marc V: You should get on there. It’s going to be better for you. It is. You don’t have to put where you are at every moment of the day, and pictures of your family. You don’t have to do any of that, if that’s what you’re scared of.
Mark S: We should make that a note for a future podcast episode.
Marc V: Let’s do that. Are we ever going to commit to those?
Mark S: Yes, we will! We have people listening to podcasts! Think about that!
Marc V: That’s very true. Of course, the other thing you can do is we appreciate if you share your favorite podcast on the Facebook group, for sure. People want to hear that. They really do. Share it among your friends and such, when you’re on social media, is a great thing. Give us a five-star review on Google or iTunes. That is going to keep this going, for sure, and motivate others to want to be successful, too.
Mark S: Cool! Alright, thanks everybody! This has been episode 51 of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast. This has been Mark Stephenson.
Marc V: And this is Marc Vila. Thank you!
Mark S: Have a good business!